February 3, 2017 at 5:12 PM #40749
Treasurer (one position to be elected)
James Bousquet | Timothy Esposito
February 9, 2017 at 8:26 PM #40815
The STC seems to be losing some steam in the past several years. A LinkedIn commenter recently remarked, “I believe every tech writer I know dropped out due to the fees going way up while the services that made the formerly modest dues worth paying are available for free from LinkedIn, Craig’s List, salary.com, etc… Some companies pay for their writers’ memberships and the expensive fees to enter the no-longer-prestigious annual awards.”
While I don’t agree with the sentiments, I would like to know how STC retains its value amongst competition from places like Write the Docs, whether you’ve done any formal assessments on membership satisfaction levels overall, whether the Chapter officers feel that National is supporting their goals, and how you would work to strengthen relations with individual chapters.
February 10, 2017 at 2:11 AM #40817
Thanks for these great questions, Rebecca! Your source makes an interesting point about the changing environment in which the STC functions. Professional societies of all stripes have had difficulty with membership levels, as technology facilitates new forms of networking and continuing education. It seems we don’t join societies the way we used to.
We certainly have to work hard to stay relevant and fresh. The STC was never the only game in town, but as you point out there is now more for technical communicators to choose from by way of networking and professional development. As practitioners, we need to stay current, learn about new tools and methodologies, and find out what others are doing. The STC also benefits the profession as a whole; for example, through certification, mentoring, and the scholarship programs that communities run.
Sure, there’s overlap between groups like Write The Docs and the STC, but the STC has more scope, covering more than software documentation. We have editing, instructional design, management, content strategy, information architecture, indexing, and more. Even if you’re not a practitioner of a particular subspecialty, it’s helpful to have exposure to fields adjacent to your own, and I see this breadth as one of the STC’s strengths. There are more organizations—LavaCon, TechWhirl, and others—together with which we can strengthen the tech comm landscape and foster a healthy, vibrant profession. We don’t need to exclude each other. Many people attend both the Summit and another conference; indeed some of those have booths in the Summit Expo Hall. Networking tools like LinkedIn are fantastic, but I also get a different quality of value from the more substantial face-to-face interactions I have at my local chapter’s events and at the STC Summit. Like a few others, my local chapter runs a Tech Comm Meetup group that organizes events on a monthly basis. Through it, we attract people who don’t work directly in the tech comm field, such as marketers and software developers, and this diversity adds new perspectives and richness to the discussions.
So I believe there is room for everyone. More is better. I don’t see this as a competition with other groups, but the Society definitely has an imperative to keep up and stay with the crowd.
Regarding member satisfaction, I don’t have numbers for the STC overall (I am following up on that and will get back to you), but I do know that the IDL SIG carries out an annual survey. Last year 95 members responded. Of those who belong to other organizations, the majority ranked the STC as providing equal value. Some felt there was more value, but some felt there was less, so we do need to address that.
How? First, make sure that the STC remains an exceptional resource for information. The key here is to keep up with what practitioners are looking for, both in terms of topics and the experience levels; not only at the Society level, through publications, webinars, and the Summit, but also through community activities, including in-person meetings and local conferences. Second, foster networking opportunities, whether online or face-to-face. These are the main things that members commented on in their responses.
Much of the value of STC membership stems from the programs of chapters and SIGs, so it’s vital that they stay healthy. The Community Affairs Committee (CAC) is doing great work to reach out to communities and support them. Some communities are quite active, successful and vibrant, and we can learn from them to help the others that aren’t doing as well. Willing volunteers are always key. We need to provide them with support and, in some cases, help with direction. As to how chapter officers feel, those who are able to attend the Summit participate in the Leadership Day, which normally includes presentations from head office and round-table discussions.
The CAC also has Outreach Teams that assign representatives to each community (both chapters and SIGs) to check up on how they’re doing and offer support where necessary. It’s here that I think there is the greatest opportunity to strengthen relations with communities. Communities are volunteer organizations, there is turnover, and some have difficulty finding and recruiting fresh volunteers. The CAC has initiatives in the works to help communities be successful—programs to model, best practices—and we need to support these and roll them out to our communities effectively.
February 20, 2017 at 1:37 PM #40938
Hi Rebecca—I promised I’d get back to you about STC member surveys. In addition to the surveys that communities administer, head office does collect data on overall member satisfaction, but it turns out the results are for internal use only. For the purposes of your question, the important point is that the STC does collect and use that information. I hope that helps with your concerns. Thanks again for you questions!
February 10, 2017 at 8:32 PM #40842
Thanks for the questions! I’m going to break them down into the individual questions and answer them as best I can. James answered before me and I tried to not read his response, so I apologize if there is too much overlap.
How does STC retain its value amongst competition?
I think one of STC’s great strengths is its members. The Society is driven by volunteers, the vast majority of whom are members. It is in the members’ best interest to have a strong society, and many of them work very hard to make sure everyone’s STC experience is great. To me, one of the best things STC provides is a strong sense of community. My chapter (STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter) is always reaching out to members, new and old alike. We have spoken at area colleges, started a scholarship, sponsored student membership, and created a mentor program. My chapter has created an STC family, and some of our active members are celebrating 30 years as STC members (and one 35-year membership!). So, I think STC provides a superior community at both the chapter and Society levels. That community helps members succeed professionally as well aiding personal wellbeing by providing a supportive environment.
Have I done any formal assessments on membership satisfaction levels overall?
As a chapter leader, I have sent surveys to my chapter asking about satisfaction, areas of improvement, ideas for what the members would like to see the chapter do. After each meeting, we send a survey about the meeting. At the end of our year in June, we send a survey asking about the past year. We also include surveys as part of our annual conference. My chapter leadership council reviews this feedback and works to improve our processes accordingly.
At the Society level, I know there are surveys that go out about Summit. I’ve seen the feedback for Leadership Day and Virtual Leadership day. The Community Affairs Committee will be reviewing that at an upcoming meeting.
Do the Chapter officers feel that the Society supports their goals?
I’ve been a chapter officer for the past 7 years. During that time, I’ve worked with people from different areas of the Society, ranging from the CFO to CEO, committee chairs to board members. My feeling is that the Society employees work hard to both support and guide the communities. For example, the former CFO worked with the treasurers to create a plan for chapter sustainability. Such a plan benefits communities and the Society by providing low cost best practices. The committees, such as Community Affairs Committee (CAC), take the interactions with chapters to the next level. The CAC more directly interacts with communities and serves to voice the community concerns to the board.
How will I work to strengthen relations with individual chapters?
As noted above, the Community Affairs Committee (CAC) is already in place to work with all of the chapters and SIGs. Each chapter and SIG has a CAC member associated with it. Those CAC members are the liaisons to the communities. If a community needs help or has a request, they contact their representative on the CAC and work with them.
In order to better serve communities, the CAC decided to create a website two years ago. I was asked to create the website using the template provided by STC. Since creating the website, the CAC members have used it to promote their webinars. I’ve authored several Best Practices articles on the site. These articles are intended to be suggestions to communities on how to simplify their work, such as by using Quicken to help budget, and Eventbrite to manage meeting registrations. Additionally, which STC was revamping their website, I used the CAC website to post the applications for the various awards, honor societies, and competitions that the Society offers. Once stc.org was back up and running, I removed those posts and pointed interested parties to the new STC site.
Check out the CAC website: http://www.cac-stc.org.
Or for a list of my Best Practices articles, see: https://tmesposit.wordpress.com/presentations-and-publications/
Historically, the treasurer mainly interacts with communities at budget time. As part of the budget review process, each submitted budget is inspected and various suggestions are made. For example, switch to STC web hosting to save money, or register your chapter leaders with the early bird rate for Summit to save money. Additionally, the treasurer speaks at Leadership Day to talk about budgeting skills. If elected treasurer I would of course continue those communications. I would also consider giving a webinar on budgeting (as was done this past year by Jane and I: http://www.cac-stc.org/quicken-and-easy-budgeting-webinar-september-16-2016/). Additional webinars on tax forms and the annual community financial report are a possibility too. If the CAC finds that a community is struggling financially, I expect to work with that community to help them out.
To see all of the webinars I’ve done to help Society communities, see:
Presentations & Publications
You can also see a list of my chapter and Society-level contributions here:
STC Involvement & Contributions
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